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Bellmawr robbery suspect a marked man

When Abasi Hamilton allegedly vaulted the counter at a Camden County motel Tuesday night and demanded money from the clerk, he was smart enough to wear a mask.

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When Abasi Hamilton allegedly vaulted the counter at a Camden County motel Tuesday night and demanded money from the clerk, he was smart enough to wear a mask.

But not that smart.

Hamilton, 31, was caught just across the street from the Super 8 he allegedly had robbed in Bellmawr. And when one officer noticed the birthmark on his forehead, he immediately recalled the wanted poster he'd been staring at for the past 11 months.

It turns out that on the morning of May 7, 2008, Hamilton wasn't wearing a mask when he allegedly tried to kidnap a 53-year-old woman on a bucolic, tree-lined street in Haddonfield.

That self-proclaimed "little" woman says she was inspired by Oprah Winfrey to kick and scream at her 5-foot-10, 175- pound attacker as he dragged her into his van.

Hamilton, of Runnemede, put the van into gear to take off, but the woman kicked the car's gear shifter into park and tumbled out of the passenger-side door, leaving a town unaccustomed to violent crime a little rattled.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, didn't remember much after escaping, but did recall the birthmark when a sketch artist arrived. That sketch was circulated among local police departments, and Tuesday night, Hamilton's birthmark became a bull's-eye.

"All in all, I thought I handled the situation pretty great," she said yesterday during an interview with the Daily News. "Once I knew they got him, I was giddy."

The woman was off work the morning of the attempted kidnapping, and it seemed as if the worst thing that would happen that day on Park Place was letting her lunch burn when she got lost in yardwork.

"It was a beautiful spring day and I was off working on my garden," she said. "You know how it is on a beautiful day, you never know what to do first. I was making chicken sandwiches and iced tea."

Then the white van pulled into her driveway.

Hamilton got out, looking lost or "like he had to be somewhere," the woman said. He told her he was delivering flowers and asked where a certain house was before heading off on a supposed delivery.

A short time later, Hamilton came back and asked if she he could use her phone. She dialed two numbers into her phone and they were both wrong.

"After two wrong numbers I got a little creeped out," she said. "When I turned around, he grabbed me by the hair and the back of my pants and started dragging me toward the van."

Hamilton admitted to the kidnapping after his arrest Tuesday and is being held in the Camden County Jail on kidnapping, burglary and theft charges. Authorities said he had noticed the woman with her dog earlier that morning and attacked to get some money out of her.

Hamilton has done numerous stints in New Jersey State Prison on everything from resisting arrest and drug charges to numerous counts of aggravated assault. He had been out of prison for less than two months at the time of the attempted kidnapping.

"With the violence, the drug-abuse habits, anything could have happened," said Haddonfield Police Chief Rick Tsonis. "This woman absolutely did the right thing. I would have fought to my death."

The woman said she didn't have cash or her pocketbook on her during the assault, so things could have gotten ugly if they had gone to an ATM.

"He was cursing at me and just being vile the entire time," she added.

During the brief struggle, the woman says she was inspired by the queen of daytime TV to fight back and not become a victim.

"I knew from Oprah that you're never supposed to go anywhere with anyone," she said.

That kind of advice is rarely needed in Haddonfield, though, where there were 12 violent crimes in 2006 and 2007 combined.

Officials in town couldn't remember any type of kidnapping in Haddonfield over the last 30 years, but the incident caused the school district to send out alerts that day and residents to take double takes at eye strangers passing through the wealthy enclave.

"It happened directly across the street from an athletic field and a few blocks from a school," said Edward Borden, director of public safety in town. "It was brazen and it was violent."

Police Cpl. Dan Bowman of Barrington was the officer who recognized the birthmark, driving back to his station after Hamilton's arrest to grab the sketch from the police locker to make sure.

"At first I thought it might have been dirt," he told the Daily News. "But I touched and it didn't rub off." *